(Extraído de dailynews.lk)
Dr. L. M. K. Tillekeratne
In the mid 80s, Sri Lankans, even those who were health conscious, were scared off from the use of coconut oil due to incorrect propaganda spread by US based Soya oil and Corn oil producers. They were made to believe that coconut oil, which was the traditional cooking oil used by our ancestors without any complaints for as long as recorded history shows, were harmful to health.
Sri Lankans for many generations consumed coconuts in many different forms in their daily diet. Oil was used for frying, coconut cream was used in all curries, in all sweet meats, porridge and the Sri Lankan relish, the 'pol sambol', are all coconut based. Coconut was used for many medicinal purposes. Ayurveda medicines used for both external application and oral consumption were coconut oil based.
High cholesterol levels or heart attacks were not common among ancient Sri Lankans. Health problems caused by tobacco and alcohol in the present day, are far more serious. Coconut water is one of the most popular beverages of the people of Sri Lanka even today and is considered a heath drink.
Dr. Bruce Fife, a naturopathic doctor, in his book, 'The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil' says that coconut oil is the healthiest oil on earth. Modern scientific research backs this bold statement.
Before 1980 and before the anti coconut propaganda launched by the above mentioned oil companies for economic and political reasons, coconut oil was used in the USA and Europe for baking and frying. There were no complaints of any health hazards.
Fabricated stories were used by these companies to convince the public that all saturated fats were unhealthy, in spite of the fact that saturated fats rich in medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid have been scientifically proven to be exceptionally healthy. As a result most people switched to vegetable oils and lost the main source of lauric acid found in tropical oils in their diet.
However in the 1980s, coconut oil, wrongly accused of being responsible for increasing cholesterol levels by the West, is now held in high esteem used even by doctors in the treatment of a variety of disorders. Clinical studies have shown that coconut oil has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, and is now used in treating AIDS patients.
Promoting weight loss
Approximately 50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut fat are lauric acid. Lauric acid is a medium chain fatty acid, which has the additional beneficial function of being converted into monolaurin in the human or animal body. Monolaurin is the antiviral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal body to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, influenza and various other pathogenic bacteria. Studies have shown the antimicrobial effects of free lauric acid.
According to latest research, scientists guarantee that unhealthy Low Density Lipids (LDL) is not found in coconut oil. Instead, coconut oil has health safe HDL. High levels of LDL cholesterol, low levels of HDL cholesterol and elevated serum triglycerides are factors that contribute to coronary risk.
Hence, the main precaution that we should take even with good quality coconut or any other vegetable oil is not to reuse the oil many times, especially in deep frying. As a result of deep frying, the amount of trans-fats in vegetable oils is increased. These trans-fats increase bad (LDL) cholesterol in the human body while decreasing good (HDL) cholesterol and also increasing serum triglycerides.
Another incredible fact about coconut oil is that even though it is a fat, it actually promotes weight loss. The reason for this again is the healthy medium-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids do not circulate in the bloodstream like ordinary fats, but are sent directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy, just like carbohydrates. So the body uses the fat in coconut oil to produce energy, rather than to be stored as fat.
Medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil also speed up the body's metabolism, burning more calories and promoting weight loss. The weight loss effects of coconut oil have been demonstrated by many researchers.
The value of coconut oil has now being realized and is in fact used by Western doctors in the treatment of a variety of disorders. There are companies in Europe that sell coconut oil for medicinal applications such as incorporating into intravenous antibiotics. Instead of calling these products by their real name - 'Physically Refined Coconut Oil' containing a high Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) value but, low HDL and trans fatty acids, they are named 'MCT Oil' and sold for pharmaceutical applications at very high prices.
Further, in contrary to their earlier theory, the TNT spray prescribed to heart patients to spray under the tongue to improve oxygen supply to the heart in an emergency situation, is now produced in the UK and marketed at a very high price under the trade name JPN spray. The solvent in that spray is coconut oil. The dilation caused by the MCT in the coconut oil, relaxes the muscles, which promotes the free flow of blood. A few years ago the doctors strongly advised heart patients to keep totally away from coconut oil.
A very popular video documentary on the internet under the caption 'Coconut oil touted as Alzheimer's remedy' clearly indicates the ability of coconut oil to regenerate dead brain cells and cure Alzheimer's disease. This short video is based on an experiment carried out by Dr Mary T Newport, a US paediatrician who cured her husband from Alzheimer's disease by regularly feeding him pure coconut oil. In that short video, Dr Mary Newport mention how medium chain triglycerides in the coconut oil get metabolized in the liver to give ketone esters that have the ability to regenerate dead cells in the brain.
Traditional method of drying copra
In traditional copra kilns, coconut kernels are dried from the heat of coconut shell fire at very high temperatures. This process not only destroy a valuable raw material (coconut shells) used in the production of activated charcoal for the export market, but also overheat kernels thereby promoting the formation of poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which are harmful to human body. Creosotic substances deposited on copra by burning shell fumes ultimately end up as tar in the oil produced.
Further, during this open kiln drying process copra gets contaminated with various extraneous substances such as droppings of rats and crows and insects.
Copra used for expelling oil is almost always contaminated with fungi. The blue, brown and black moulds are very common in copra. It has been reported that aflatoxin contamination is also very common in mouldy copra.
Expelled oil when kept in corroded steel drums for days, some times in the hot sun, rust contamination may occur and PAH formation takes place. Hence in order to preserve the quality and particularly to improve the medicinal value of coconut oil, drying kernels for copra and the expelling of oil should be done scientifically. Drying temperature of the copra should not exceed 40 to 50 degrees Celsius to avoid PAH formation. Most of the coconut oil producers in Sri Lanka do not follow quality and food safety procedures. The SLS standards too are not defined to identify the 'Chemically refined' or 'Physically refined' process from the specifications given in the SLS standards.
Some of the White Coconut Oils in the market are RBD (refined, bleached, and deodorized) made by the traditional method of drying copra and expelling. These RBD oils do maintain the beneficial chemical structures of the medium chain fatty acids. But, they also contain high health unsafe peroxide levels and chemical residues left behind during processing. They deteriorate faster as well when exposed to the atmosphere.
In order to get the best health benefits of coconut oil, the correct process must be followed to convert coconut kernels to clean copra to extract pure White Oil without subjecting to bleaching.
In the newly developed cold process of drying coconut kernels under vacuum reported in a daily newspaper dated February 20, 2012 the drying temperature is maintained below 40c. There is no mould or insect contamination. This kiln can produce much superior quality copra.
This copra can be safely converted to pure water White Oil by a vacuum process using steam for heating thereby retaining the valuable monolaurins in the resulting White Oil which helps to maintain the body's immune system. As this process prevents high temperature oxidization of the oil, the resulting oil has virtually zero peroxide values.
This kiln can also be used to dry many other export commodities like Cardamom while retaining the natural green colour of the pods which will give them a higher grade.
It is unfortunate that none of the above parameters, which ensure the health safety and the medicinal value of the oil, are taken into account. There is no indication of the high peroxide values that occur due to the storing of the oil in corroded steel drums, a root cause of many diseases related to edible oils.
Steps are now being taken by the Sri Lanka Standards Institution to revise the standards for all coconut oils. It is believed that these new parameters and specifications, which are vital for human health and safety, will be incorporated into the revised standards. Further, in future the White Coconut Oils marketed under the SLS mark should clearly indicate the process of refining used in the label, as by 'Physical Process' or by 'Chemical Process'.
Also it is a known fact that oils available in the domestic market as vegetable oils are adulterated with other oils such as palm oil and some times even with oils used for deep frying and disposed by hotels with high LDL values and hence are not safe for human consumption.
Based on the above, the time has come now for the government to take this matter up at international level and try to gain the rightful place for this precious, physically refined, health safe coconut oil having the above mentioned special specifications. Normal white coconut oil made by traditional methods with high peroxide levels and with chemical and smoke residues and with polymerized molecules will not qualify for this purpose.